To flat rejection: Nevermore
LE CORBEAU (Henri-Georges Clouzot, France, 1943)
I saw this French film on Turner Classic Movies late last week, and I must say I was a bit underwhelmed. The film is about a series of anonymous poison-pen letters to some people in “a typical French town” threatening to out them for past sins (Otto Preminger remade it as THE THIRTEENTH LETTER). But LE CORBEAU just never really took off for me. I never found it either particularly funny (and I have a dark-enough sense of humor that I felt I *should* be finding this funny) nor did I find it especially threatening or suspenseful (the French Hitchcock and all that). There were so many characters getting letters and talking about their suspicions about one another, that keping up with it made it more of a chore than a pleasurably acidic black farce. I also saw the end coming (i.e. the fate of the titular “Raven” and who meted out that fate).
But I probably need to see it again, perhaps with adjusted expectations, to be sure that I didn’t simply miss the point or plain lost track. One of my all-time favorite films is Renoir’s THE RULES OF THE GAME, made in France four years earlier. Now the two films could not be more different tonally — LE CORBEAU is ice-cold and cynical, while RULES generous and warm, but they have in common my not caring very much on first viewing, and for basically the same reason — there were so many comings-and-goings between so many characters that the films finally left poor little dumb me behind. Needless to say, RULES grew in my mind. Still, I’m now 0 for 2 on really being really sent by Clouzot’s 40s films (the other being QUAI DES ORFEVRES), and 2 for 2 on his 50s films (DIABOLIQUE and THE WAGES OF FEAR), and four films constitutes a trend in my opinion.
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